FACTS/FLUKES: S. Gray, J. Turner, Edman, Alcantara, O'Neill

Gray rebounds … A January 2019 trade from the Yankees to the Reds provided the change of scenery Sonny Gray (RHP, CIN) needed, as he put a rough 2018 campaign behind him, posting a fantastic 2.87 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 175 IP. Do his underlying skills back that level of production?

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/Ball%  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  HH%
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =========  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===
2015  208  2.73/3.62  2.6   7.3  2.9   59%/36%   10%  53/17/31  26/78    9%  35%   
2016  117  5.69/4.25  3.2   7.2  2.2   61%/38%    8%  54/19/27  33/64   17%  44%
2017  162  3.55/3.82  3.2   8.5  2.7   62%/38%   12%  53/20/28  28/75   15%  38%
2018  130  4.90/4.14  3.9   8.5  2.2   57%/39%   10%  50/23/27  34/69   13%  40%
2019  175  2.87/3.55  3.5  10.5  3.0   55%/39%   12%  51/18/31  27/77   13%  33%
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19  93  1.94/3.41  3.5  11.0  3.2   55%/39%   13%  47/19/34  23/85   11%  31%

No, but this is still a nice collection of skills:

  • Though his SwK bounced back from 2018 and rose even higher in the second half, it doesn’t support his Dom, so look for some pullback in 2020.
  • Gray altered his pitch mix, most notably reducing sinker usage from 30% in 2018 to 21% in 2019 while upping slider usage from 17% to 21% and curve usage from 23% to 26%, including a jump in curve usage to 30% in the second half. 
  • Walks were a problem in 2018, but he made some strides there in 2019. However, his shaky Ball% and FpK make additional Ctl gains unlikely.
  • His ability to keep the ball on the ground has always been an asset and is even more important in today’s game.
  • After being plagued by some H%/S% and LD% misfortune in 2018, he received his share of good fortune in 2019, as evidenced by the ERA/xERA split. It’s worth noting that he owns a lifetime 29% H%, 74% S% and 19% LD%, so the 2019 marks weren’t that far out of whack. 
  • According to Statcast, he also did a much better job of limiting hard contact in 2019 (MLB average: 35%).

Gray is a prime example of how helpful a change of scenery can be, as he escaped the AL East and reunited with his college pitching coach in Cincinnati. The adjustments he made clearly paid off, as he posted career-highs in Dom and BPV in 2019. The 30-year-old underwent September 2019 arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, but is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. While there figures be some Dom, ERA and WHIP regression, Gray should be a good bet for a mid-3s ERA and near 1.20 WHIP.

 

Turner is still going strong … Despite again failing to reach the 500 at-bat plateau, Justin Turner (3B, LA) enjoyed another fine season, batting .290 with 27 HR in 479 AB. The 35-year-old currently has a 170 ADP in 2020 drafts. Could that present a prime buying opportunity?

Year   AB  HR/xHR    BA   xBA  bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h%  HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SB
====  ===  ======  ====  ====  =======  ========  ==  ====  =======  ====  ======
2015  385   16/14  .294  .291    8/82   36/28/36  33   113  126/117   14%   74/5
2016  556   27/26  .275  .283    8/81   36/24/40  30   123  125/123   15%   91/4
2017  457   21/25  .322  .282   11/88   31/21/48  33   138  108/154   11%   68/7
2018  365   14/17  .312  .290   11/85   29/26/44  34   141  119/154   10%   77/2
2019  479   27/25  .290  .283    9/82   34/26/40  31   142  107/151   17%   90/2

Yes, this is a sturdy skill set:

  • Turner tied his career-high HR total in 2019, and the feat was backed by xPX, HctX and xHR.
  • His plate skills slipped from elite in 2017-18 to merely good in 2019, but with that ct% and LD% combination, he owns a high BA floor.
  • After swiping seven bags in 2017, he has just four since. Given his age and subpar speed, don’t count on more than a couple steals in 2020.

Turner continues to be highly productive when on the field, and his skills remain in fine shape. While we can’t ignore his age and the fact that he has logged 500 AB just once in a MLB season, it’s important to note his string of near-$20 seasons from 2016-19. Even if Turner just approximates his 2019 AB total, he’s a good bet to deliver profit at his current ADP.

 

Edman emerges … Tommy Edman (2B/3B/OF, STL) entered 2019 outside the top 15 prospects in the Cardinals organization, but a fast start with Memphis of the Pacific Coast League that included a .305 BA, 7 HR and 9 SB in 49 games earned him a June 8 promotion to the majors. He went on to bat .304 with 11 HR and 15 SB over the remainder of 2019. What sparked Edman’s sudden emergence?

Year   AB    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  xHR/F  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  =========  =======  ====  ========  =======  ====  =====  =======  =====
2017# 219  .232/ N/A    6/84    N/A     N/A     55/N/A   N/A   N/A    84/N/A   2/ 4
2018^ 518  .263/ N/A    6/81    N/A     N/A     50/N/A   N/A   N/A   119/N/A   5/23
2019  326  .304/.276    5/81    116  41/25/35   95/108   12%   11%   144/20%  11/15
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

Increased power was an unexpected component:

  • With a track record of abysmal PX in the minors, it was surprising to see him show near-average power in MLB. While xHR/F mostly supports the gains, it’ll be interesting to see how much of it sticks.
  • His Statcast measured sprint speed ranked in the 97th percentile, and he has been very efficient on the basepaths, so a run at 20+ SB could be within reach.
  • His ct%, elite wheels, and knack for hitting line drives gives him a solid BA floor, but xBA hints at some regression.

Edman was a pleasant surprise in 2019, and he played a vital role down the stretch, batting .350 with 6 HR and 6 SB in September. The 24-year-old’s ability to play several positions provides many avenues to playing time, so he figures to be in the lineup most days even if he doesn’t have an everyday position. Edman can provide BA/SB value, but we wouldn’t count on all of that newfound power sticking around. His current 136 ADP leaves little room for profit and carries a fair amount of risk.

 

Can Alcantara take another step? … Though it wasn’t the smoothest of rides for Sandy Alcantara (RHP, MIA) in his first full MLB season, he opened eyes with a 2.73 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 69 IP over his final ten starts of 2019. That strong finish is even more interesting considering it coincided with a change in pitch mix, as he ramped up sinker usage from 22% lifetime prior to August 10 to 44% from that point forward. What can we expect in 2020?

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK/Ball%  SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f   vL
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  =========  ===  ========  =====  ====  ====  
2017* 134  5.20  5.23  4.0  6.7  1.7   N/A/N/A   N/A     N/A    33/69   N/A  .817
2018* 151  4.13  3.93  3.6  6.3  1.7   61%/39%   11%  48/16/36  29/70    9%  .627
2019  197  3.88  5.11  3.7  6.9  1.9   60%/35%   11%  45/19/36  28/74   11%  .758
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2H-19 102  3.90  4.93  3.4  7.6  2.3   64%/34%   11%  43/18/39  27/73   12%  .801
*Includes MLEs

There is more work to be done, but things appear headed in the right direction:

  • Walks have been an issue throughout his career, but Ctl sub-indicators, particularly in the second half (2.3 xCtl), suggest better days could lie ahead.
  • While Alcantara has owned a subpar strikeout rate in recent years, his SwK hints that more strikeouts could be forthcoming (8.6 xDom). 
  • He’s still searching for answers vL. Though he managed to improve Cmd vL in the second half of 2019, he allowed an .801 OPS in 228 PA (lifetime vL pre-2H 2019: 1.0 Cmd in 327 PA; 2H 2019: 1.8 Cmd). 
  • The ERA/xERA gap is substantial, but it’s worth noting that he sported an xERA of 4.59 and 4.19, respectively, in August and September as he adjusted his pitch mix.

Alcantara remains a work in progress, but the second half adjustments and gains are certainly encouraging. The aforementioned Dom and Ctl upside makes him an appealing arm to monitor. The 24-year-old is an intriguing breakout candidate and his current 260 ADP gives him enticing profit potential.

 

Can O’Neill step up? … The departure of Marcell Ozuna to the Braves has created a vacancy in the Cardinals outfield and Tyler O’Neill (OF, STL) is one who has a chance to step into the void. Injuries (elbow in April; hamstring in June; wrist in August) limited O’Neill, but he compiled a .262 BA with 5 HR in 141 AB at the major league level in 2019. How are his underlying skills?

Year   AB  HR/SB    BA/xBA   bb%/ct%  GB/LD/FB  h% HctX   PX/xPX  hr/f xHR/F  Spd
====  ===  =====  =========  =======  ========  == ====  =======  ==== =====  ===
2016# 492  22/11  .272/ N/A   10/66   36/18/46  37  N/A  135/N/A   N/A   N/A   90
2017+ 495  25/12  .222/ N/A    8/68   34/23/43  28  N/A  131/N/A   N/A   N/A   94
2018* 368  28/4   .265/.240    7/64   29/23/48  33  107  179/169   25%   28%  117
2019  141   5/1   .262/.208    7/62   38/23/40  39  101   98/108   14%   17%   96
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs
*Includes MLEs

It’s a mixed bag:

  • After displaying big-time power in the minors and in his 2018 MLB cup of coffee (9 HR in 130 AB), his power waned considerably in 2019. Having said that, his xHR/F shows he was hurt by a tad of bad luck.
  • Strikeouts have long been a problem, though a lifetime 38% h% in 271 MLB AB has masked it, as evidenced by the extreme BA/xBA gap. It’s a tiny sample, but perhaps a glimmer of hope can be found in his enhanced 2H-19 plate skills (69% ct% and 8% bb% in 95 AB).
  • He has good speed, but has attempted to steal just 15 times since joining the Cardinals organization in July 2017. However, he has been successful 14 times over that span, so the potential is there for maybe 5-8 SB in a full season.

We’re willing to give O’Neill a mulligan for the diminished power in 2019, as injuries may have played a part, but it’s imperative that he demonstrate the ability to put the ball in play more consistently. He flashed substantial gains in that area during a tiny 83 AB sample in July (73% ct%; 6% bb%), so maybe there’s hope. Unless the Cardinals acquire an outfielder from outside the organization prior to Opening Day, O’Neill is expected to battle for playing time in left field and makes for an intriguing speculative play (486 ADP).


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.